Wednesday, January 13, 2016

A Gift

On the Thursday before my birthday this last October, I was given one of the greatest gifts anyone could ever ask for.

I was at a Cruz campaign strategy meeting with radio talk show host, Steve Deace, getting the lay of the Iowa political land. I sat next to Marlin Bontrager and his son Josh. During the course of the evening, we talked and found out we lived just a few miles from each other and the topic of churches came up. I had told him that I was looking for a place to attend worship on Sundays. All he did was invite me to his church in Washington, Iowa. That Sunday morning, I got up and made the choice to go to Marion Avenue Baptist Church. That decision changed my life. 

From the moment I walked into Marion Avenue, I felt welcomed. I instantly had things in common with the people there. They spoke my language. They have a clarity of purpose and a vision of what a church should be and that is a place to hear the truth and proclaim the good news. Pastor Joseph Brown, whom I now call my friend, welcomed me that very morning. I heard a Bible based sermon that actually related to issues facing everyday Americans. I was blown away. This wasn't just a theoretical church, this was a church equipping the people in the pews to do battle with today's crumbling society. Near the end of the service, Marlin Bontrager leaned over and asked me to join his family for Sunday dinner. That was the second part of his gift to me that day.

Mitchell Bontrager rode with me so that he could show me the way to his family farm. We talked and I got the sense that I wasn't going to just any place, but a very special place. What I saw and experienced that Sunday afternoon will be with me for the rest of my life. It was a family of 12 people under one roof that work in concert with one another. The love they show for one another is nothing short of amazing. Maybe it shouldn't be but in today's culture, it is.

I'm writing this piece because the Iowa Caucuses are near and what I've known for the past 5 months is almost over. My friends that are from all corners of the country with the campaign will move on and the Bontragers are getting ready for another season of touring the country to minister to people all over. Lord knows that we need the ministering. I want to say thank you to every last one of them and I look forward to remaining friends with them for as long as I walk this earth.

Marlin, Becky, Chelsy, Mitchell, Allison, Carson, Josh, Denver, Taylor, Elizabeth, Hudson, and Rebecca have shown me Christian love and I just hope I've been able to return just a small amount of that same Christian love to them. I'll miss the conversations with Mitchell and Denver about college football. I'll miss seeing Elizabeth smile and be a light to all those around her. I'll miss Allison's no bake cookies and her playing violin while hanging from the ceiling. I'll also miss talking to her about faith and gratitude. I'll miss Taylor's wisdom that belies his age. I'll miss Carson's straightforwardness. I'll miss hearing Hudson singing along with the hymns. I'll miss Marlin's kind words and encouragement. I'll miss Becky's kindness. I'll miss Josh's biblical knowledge and I'll miss Chelsy's unvarnished opinions and I'll also miss seeing her with all the little children at church. Chelsy has a heart for little children like no one else I've ever seen. I think she's some kind of baby whisperer and it is quite a sight to behold. God has shown Himself to me through every member of this family and I praise Him for it.

I will keep every member of this family in my prayers. I pray for their safety in their travels and I pray that they are able to help lead others to know Jesus as the one true way to salvation. I knew that I was saved but I just needed a reminder. Marion Avenue and the Bontragers have done that.

I will stay in Iowa as long as I feel God working through me here. I look forward to joining Marion Avenue Baptist Church as a full member and seeing where God leads me in this area.

I encourage every one that reads this to find a Bible believing and Bible teaching church. If your church doesn't keep fast to biblical truth, find a church that does. Knowing that you are a believer saved by grace through faith in Jesus is the best feeling in the world. When I first became involved with this presidential campaign, I thought meeting all of these important and impressive people would be the most impressive thing I'd done in my life. How wrong I was. Finding my way back to a Christian life was the best thing to happen to me.

2 Chronicles 7:14   If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. 

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